Against the gods? part 2
02-05-2013, 11:18 PM (This post was last modified: 02-05-2013 11:23 PM by Foxcanine1.)
Against the gods? part 2
Here's the next part. Again, this is a long read.
Theists claim that gods exist, atheists accept that they do not; agnostics say that gods are unlikely, but not impossible.
How do they manage this? Many agnostics understand that gods do not – and cannot – exist in physical reality, so they create “Dimension X,” and place the possibility of gods existing somewhere “out there.” Inevitably, when a rational thinker points out that this does not solve the problem, the agnostic replies with grating haughtiness that the rational thinker is being closed-minded, and sniffs that
to claim the nonexistence of any particular entity is short-sighted and unimaginative. “Surely,” he says, “if you were to tell a medieval man that human beings would one day be able to talk instantaneously around the world, he would say that such a feat was utterly impossible – but he would be only exposing the limitations of his more primitive mind, not making any objective truth statement.”
In other words, any and all certainty is primitive superstition. This wonderful piece of sophistry is a patently ridiculous form of ad hominem, which goes something like this: “Just as Newtonian physics gave way to Einsteinian physics, and Einsteinian physics was in some ways surpassed by quantum mechanics, making absolute truth statements about all forms of future knowledge shows a deep ignorance of the flexible and progressive nature of the scientific method, and the endless potential for human thought. This is a very strange notion, in which the scientific method is used to pave the way not away from ghosts, demons and a generally haunted universe, but rather towards it. The science of medicine has attempted to escape the primitive foolishness of witch doctors and the superstitions of demonic possession – to say that true medicine leads us towards such primitive fantasies, rather than helping us escape them, entirely misunderstands the purpose of science, reason and medicine.
Of course it is true that Newtonian physics gave way to Einsteinian physics, and Einsteinian physics may well be surpassed by some other approach – to say so is boringly obvious. However, reason and evidence is a process, it is not any specific content. Science is a method, not a specific theory or proposition. It is only reason and evidence that reveals the superiority of more accurate and comprehensive theories. The scientific method rejects self-contradictory theories as either erroneous or inconclusive, just as mathematics rejects the results of any equation that starts with the proposition that two and two make five. Science has been man's
most successful attempt to flee what Carl Sagan called “the demon haunted world” – science cannot be used to pave the way back to such primitive madness.
I suppose we can accept it as a compliment to science that agnostics and theists are using it to attempt to resurrect the primitive fantasies inherited from the infancy of our species, but the powerful electricity of modern thought cannot be used to resurrect the Frankenstein of superstitious falsehoods.
Let’s look at the “Dimension X” argument in more detail. Concepts and Instances
A central tenet of rational thinking is to recognize that an instance is not a concept. A mathematical process such as multiplication is a concept that applies to any general arrangement of numbers; it cannot be called a concept if it only applies to one particular calculation. You need an “x” to have an equation; 16/4=4 is not an equation, but an instance, a particular application of a general process called division. In the same way, alternate dimensions cannot be invented that only contain gods, but rather must be a general concept that encompasses everything. The true argument put forward by agnosticism is not that “Dimension X may contain gods,” but rather that “nothing true can be said about our reality, because another reality may exist where truth equals falsehood.” In other words, the agnostic position is that any positive statement must be instantly negated by
the possibility of an “opposite dimension.” This proposition falls apart at every conceivable level – and even at some that cannot be
First of all, saying that we cannot make any absolute positive claims about truth is itself an absolute positive claim about truth – i.e. that truth is impossible. If we say that certainty is impossible, then we have to instantly retract that statement, since we are making a certain
statement. It very quickly becomes obvious that nothing of any merit or weight can ever be said if the truth is impossible.
In other words, when the agnostic says that we cannot make any absolute claims because the opposite might be true in another universe, the agnostic cannot put forward this claim, because the opposite might be true in another universe.
All con artists operate by affirming a general rule, and then creating an exception for
themselves. A thief wants everyone to respect property rights except him; a counterfeiter wants everyone to accept the value of money except him – and a philosophical con man wants everyone to reject truth except for his own propositions. Don't fall for it, not for a minute!
The moment an agnostic says, "Gods may exist in another dimension,” immediately identify the principle behind his statement, which is that no truth can be stated, and apply it to his own statement, thus rendering it invalid.
The Second Self-Contradiction The moment that we say, “gods may exist in another universe,” we are instantly contradicting ourselves, because the word “gods” contains specific knowledge claims – intelligence,
omnipotence, immateriality etc. – which cannot be applied to a dimension about which we know nothing! To analogize this, imagine that I tell you that I'm going to play you a video of incomprehensible static – and then I insist that I can clearly see the lyrics to “Woolly Bully” scrolling across the screen.
Only one of these claims can be true – if the video is incomprehensible static, then lyrics cannot scroll across the screen – if the lyrics are scrolling across the screen, the video cannot be incomprehensible. In the same way, if I create Dimension X, and say that we can know nothing about its contents, I then cannot say that gods may exist there, because I am then saying that I know something
about the unknowable contents of Dimension X.
I cannot say that I know nothing about a particular entity, but that I also know it is green and furry – only one of these statements can be true.
The moment that I say “gods may exist in another dimension,” I am making specific knowledge claims about the contents and processes of this other dimension – i.e. that certain entities with
specific characteristics may meet the criteria of existence in another dimension of which I admit I know absolutely nothing at all. The truth of the matter is that we can say absolutely nothing about this other dimension; even if we accept that it may exist, which is problematic enough. We cannot claim to have any
knowledge about what may or may not constitute existence in this other realm, or what entities may be possible, or what laws of physics may operate, or anything of the sort. Even the existence of this other realm, let alone its contents, cannot be spoken of – all we can propose is that existence may be the same as nonexistence, and invent an imaginary place where this may
be possible. However, even this argument runs into insurmountable logical contradictions. It would be ridiculous for me to mail you a letter arguing that mail never gets delivered. If I genuinely believe that mail never gets delivered, it would be illogical for me to write you a
letter. If I do write you a letter, my argument that mail never gets delivered is instantly invalidated the moment that you receive it.
In the same way, all human communication relies on physical matter of some kind, either text on paper or on a screen, or sound waves in the ear, or touch for Braille, or some other form of physical manipulation. Silence is the absence of sound waves – or at least of a medium such as air or water to carry them. I cannot deny the existence of a medium while using that medium to
carry my argument. I cannot rationally yell in your ear that sound does not exist, because I'm relying on the existence of sound to carry my argument.
In the same way, I cannot rationally put forward the argument that all language is meaningless, because I must use language to communicate my argument. If my proposition that language is meaningless is true, then using language to communicate that proposition would be ridiculous
– if my argument that language has no meaning is heard and understood – to any degree – then it is automatically invalidated.
To rely on existence to communicate the possibility that existence equals nonexistence is equally foolish. The objective existence of air and air pressure and ears and life and minds is required to speak and hear the argument that existence may equal nonexistence. Furthermore, the rational and predictable properties of all that exists in order to communicate an argument
are presumed to be objective, since any communication between human beings requires an acceptance of the objective properties of matter.
For example, if you tell me that gods exist, and I reply, “Yes, I agree that gods do not exist,” you will doubtless correct my erroneous feedback on your position. This is only possible if the words have at least some objective meaning, and sound waves do not magically mutate from voice to ears, and so on. For words to be formed, spoken and heard, both existence and nonexistence must be accepted, since all sound waves have peaks and valleys. Text as well must have the
presence and absence of somewhat contrasting colours, otherwise only one colour is seen, which is not an argument.
All human communication thus relies on the difference between existence and nonexistence, presence and absence, and accepts as axiomatic the objective behavior of matter and energy, and at least tolerable objectivity in language.
When we understand all this, we understand that using strict and objective differences between existence and nonexistence – as well as accepting the objective behavior of matter and energy – to argue that there may be no differences between existence and nonexistence, and that matter and energy may exhibit no objective behavior, is exactly the same as sending a letter claiming that letters are never delivered. Ah, but perhaps I have misunderstood something! Perhaps I am sending a letter telling you that letters are only sometimes not delivered, in which case my argument may be somewhat weakened, but it is not entirely self-contradictory. The agnostic, after all, does not claim that gods do exist in another universe, but rather only that they may exist. However, this is looking at the wrong side of the agnostic argument. The agnostic is making the absolute claim that absolute claims are invalid. “You cannot say that gods do not exist, because they may exist in another dimension.” This is not a relativistic or sliding scale, but rather an
absolute negation. “You cannot say,” is the equivalent of “mail is never delivered.” It is not the possibility of error that the agnostic is affirming, but rather the impossibility of absolute knowledge claims of any kind. This is an absolute statement that rejects absolutism, which of course renders it invalid.
Agnosticism is one of the rare examples of a truly cosmic fail. Agnosticism and Principles Let's look at another argument against agnosticism.
Perhaps you think I am overstating the case – but the agnostic argument is so pervasive, and so ridiculous, that I do not think we can drive enough stakes into its hollow heart.
The agnostic claim that no truth statement can be valid because of a possible opposite universe cannot only apply to gods, but rather must apply to every object in the universe – and every argument as well! Thus, when the agnostic says “gods may exist in another dimension,” the
“opposite possibility principle” applies even to his own words, which can then be rationally reinterpreted, according to his own principles, as the exact opposite of what he is saying, i.e. “there can be no other dimensions, and gods cannot exist.” If the agnostic protests that this
was not his meaning, he can be told that he cannot affirm his meaning in any way, because in this other dimension, his words may have the exact opposite meaning. It is the same principle that he is applying to the atheist, and so he cannot reasonably complain when it boomerangs back and knocks over the foolish house of cards he is pretending to build. The moment that the agnostic asserts that it is impossible to state with certainty that gods cannot exist, due to this possible alternate dimension, then his statement is automatically invalidated as well, since in this alternate dimension, gods may not exist either, or his words may mean the opposite of what he thinks they mean in this dimension, and so on. No sane
person can use this other dimension to affirm or deny any truth statement in this dimension – and so the agnostic merely takes himself out of the bounds of civilized and rational debate. The moment an agnostic hears this argument, he will doubtless say, “But...” However, I merely interrupt him to reply, “You cannot use the word ‘but,’ since the word ‘but’ might have the exact opposite meaning in some alternate dimension.” I would continue this process with every word he spoke after that, until he either dropped his position, or my company, which would be a relief either way.
This is what I mean when I say that all con artists wish to create a general rule, with a magical exception for themselves – the agnostic wishes to cast universal doubt on truth statements, except all the ones that he happens to make.
Agnosticism and Consistency
Since agnosticism is fundamentally an epistemological position, it cannot be confined to the existence of gods, but rather must be fundamental to all forms of human knowledge. However, I have yet to hear an agnostic argue that we must abolish prisons, since a criminal’s guilt can never be established with certainty, since in another dimension, he might not have committed the crime. In Western legal systems, crimes must be proven “beyond a reasonable
doubt,” but in the agnostic formulation of truth, no such standard can ever be achieved. This kind of exceptionalism is dully inevitable when dealing with religion. It never applies anywhere else.
To take another example, it is illegal to sell bogus cures for real illnesses – however, not only is Christianity’s “cure” utterly unproven, but even the “illness” itself – sin – is completely invented. Can we imagine a priest being hauled before a court for fraud, for selling a nonsense cure to an invented disease? If not, why not?
We also have laws against hate speech, or the incitement of hatred against particular groups.
However, the Bible commands believers to kill gays, atheists, sorcerers, heretics, disobedient children and witches and just about everyone else who draws breath. A comic in Canada was recently hauled before the human rights commission for making a joke about homosexuals – can we imagine the printers and distributors of the Bible being charged in such a manner? If not, why not?
Gods and Non-Existence?
Even if we accept the opposite-planet Bizarro world of the agnostic position – and even if we accept that knowledge claims can be made about an unknowable realm, the agnostic position still falls flat.
There are only two possibilities for our future relationship with Dimension X – either we will never interact with it in any way, or we will find some way to penetrate its mysteries. In the first case, Dimension X will never be discovered, in which case it is merely “nonexistence” with a silly alias, and cannot be used to reject any knowledge claims. Since it remains a mere synonym for
nonexistence, it cannot be used to reject nonexistence. In this case, an agnostic cannot say, “I reject that gods cannot exist by defining nonexistence as synonymous with existence – justcalling it ‘Dimension X’ for funsies.”
Ah, but perhaps someday we will find a way to send a probe into Dimension X, and record some of its properties. In this case, we will be translating Dimension X into something that exists here, in our universe, just as a spectrograph translates light into waves. In other words, Dimension X will have to show up somewhere, somehow in our universe to confirm its existence, and can no longer be used as a synonym for nonexistence.Alternatively, if Zeus is currently doing cartwheels in Dimension X, he might trip and stick his
finger through the time-space continuum and poke a hole in our moon. In this case, we would have objective and empirical evidence for this event, which would constitute proof that something rather extraordinary had occurred.
In other words, the properties and characteristics of Dimension X will have to be translated into something that exists in this universe in order to confirm its existence and record its properties. If Dimension X never has any impact on our universe, then it is completely synonymous with nonexistence, and can never be used to reject nonexistence. Using the standard of nonexistence to reject nonexistence is entirely self-contradictory, the equivalent of saying “I reject the nonexistence of X by accepting that it does not exist, but using a different word.” If a surgeon said that a dead patient still lived because he used the word “gool” to mean “dead,”
we would not accept his argument as particularly rational. The agnostic claim that gods cannot be said to not exist because one can use the phrase “dimension x” as a synonym for nonexistence is equally foolish and irrational.
Gods and the Supernatural That which is self-contradictory cannot exist. Gods are self-contradictory entities. Therefore gods cannot exist.
What if a god is invented which does not possess self-contradictory characteristics?
Ah, then it is not a god. We can imagine that 21st century man would appear godlike to our Stone Age ancestors – however, the sane among us do not believe that we have become gods due to our advanced technology.
In the same way, we may meet among the stars fantastically advanced beings – however they will not be gods, but rather just highly evolved life forms. We may meet telepathic beings who can travel through time and have made themselves immortal, but we will never meet carbonbased
lifeforms that can live on the surface of the sun, or Oompa-Loompas who live in a square circle, are composed of both fire and ice, and can go North and South at the same time. Thus it is axiomatic that gods cannot exist – if they are gods, then they cannot exist; if they exist, then they are not gods.
Imagine that archaeologists come across some squiggly prehistoric cave painting that, when
viewed at a certain angle, has vague similarities to the equation “E=mc2”.
Would this overthrow our entire sense of causality and the evolution of knowledge? Would we imagine that a primitive caveman largely incapable of language or mathematics had somehow discovered one of the most complex and challenging equations of modern physics?
Of course not. We would smile at the strange coincidence, but would no more imagine a Stone Age genius physicist then we would grant a doctorate to the wind, should it happen to blow a series of sand dunes into a similar equation.
In other words, the effects of knowledge cannot exist prior to that knowledge. I could probably teach my infant daughter to scratch out “E=mc2,” but I would not imagine that she understoodany of its reasoning, evidence or contents. A sick animal might break into a pharmacy and eat
the pills that coincidently happened to treat its illness, but we would not call such an animal a pharmacist or a doctor. Almost all of our conceptions of deities have come down to us from the past – and generally the pre-scientific past. When we consider the 10,000 or so gods that human beings have believed in at one time or another, we clearly understand that the development and depiction of these gods was not based on any scientific or rational understanding of the universe. Even if
the impossible actually occurred, and some being were found somewhere in the universe that closely matched the description of some ancient deity, this would not be proof that such a god existed in the past, and was the source of that knowledge. Either this would be mere coincidence, or we would have to accept the reality that such a being visited our ancestors, who recorded his actual presence, which is not proof of the existence of a god, but rather a tourist. Any historical knowledge claim about deities existed prior to any empirical evidence or proof, and thus remains in the realm of pure fantasy. Even if evidence were to accumulate at some point in the future, this does not grant prescience to the accidental imaginings of past ages. In
other words, the hope that some theists and agnostics have that proofs for gods will be found in the future does not validate any existing claims about the natures and properties of deities. All prior and existing claims of knowledge about gods are false, regardless of what shows up in
the future, in this or any other dimension.
Deities Before Time?
Some theists – and even agnostics – use the same “Dimension X” argument examined above, but place the alternate universe in a time before our own, rather than parallel to it in some manner. This does not fundamentally change any of the arguments – either this universe before our own will never have any impact on us, in which case it is just another word for nonexistence, or it will, in which case it will be empirically measurable within our own universe, and subject to all the same laws of physics as everything else we examine. In other words, once it enters into our universe, it cannot contain self-contradictory properties, and therefore cannot be a god.
That's all I'm doing for tonight. There are 36 pages of this all together. So far we're on pg14.
Edit: If your willing to download the online book for free then you can find the link here.
Just an outsider looking inn.